Maps of Durham

Another very exciting and very large book arrived in the lab this week: a volume of the Sanborn fire insurance maps for the city of Durham.

The Sanborn maps were used as a reference by insurance underwriters to assess risk and determine how much insurance to offer without having to physically travel to the location. Originally published in 1913, the contents of this book were continually updated until 1931 to accurately reflect changes in buildings throughout the city. Rather than reprint the maps annually with updates, corrections were just pasted in. You can see the evidence of these corrections everywhere. For example, the endsheets are covered in additional indexes:

Looking closely, you can see printed instructions to the corrector for which indexes to paste over with the update. Small cutouts of updated maps are also pasted, layer after layer, throughout the interior.
The binding is reflective of common ledger bindings from the late 19th and early 20th century, which feature a number of structural components designed to allow such a large and heavy book to function. These include both leather and heavy cloth spine linings, a shaped rigid spine piece, and cloth reinforced hinges.
Despite the added strength from those materials, they have not been able to withstand the stresses that this book places on them when opening – particularly as they have aged and weakened. Large portions of leather and the “hubs” (raised bands) are missing from the spine. The leather joints have completely split and the spine piece is just hanging on by a thread now. Fortunately the sewing and spine linings remain intact and functional.

Luckily, most of the stamped leather tabs remain.

While examining the book, I was keeping an eye out for some of Durham’s more notable landmarks.  The Erwin Cotton Mill, located at the corner of 9th and Main street, was easy to spot.

I also found the oldest operating business on 9th street, the White Star Laundry. That corner looks a little different these days. The building in yellow was demolished in the 1950s.

When I came across the Liberty Warehouse, it looked like it was in the wrong place.  But the building that I have always known as the Liberty Warehouse (now the site of an apartment building by the same name) was actually the third iteration of the warehouse, built in 1940.

I even found the infamous “Canopener” bridge on Gregson St!

The Sanborn maps contain a wealth of information about the cities they describe and are an important resource for scholarship. We will be working with the curators at the Rubenstein Library to determine the best treatment plan for stabilizing and housing this volume so that it can be safely accessed by patrons.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of your city from Sanborn maps, you might be able to find digital images of the maps through the Library of Congress.

Quick Pic(s): Things That Make You Go “Huh?”

One of the perks of working in a university library is that you will regularly encounter some very strange and delightful things. The item that checked that box for me this week was the Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini.

Cover of the Codex SeraphinianusIt was pretty obvious why it came in to the lab for repairs. The cover to textblock attachment was way too weak for the size of the book.

Complete case detachmentThe text held a number of surprises, though. This illustrated encyclopedia, written in some imaginary language, contains images of all kinds of crazy stuff. The illustrations cover everything from animals, …

Illustration of fictional animal
A surreal Wool E. Bull?

… to fashion, …

Illustrations of imaginative clothing

… , to elaborate machines and architecture.

Illustration of imaginative architecture.

It even has some suggestions for activities to occupying your free time.

Illustration of a child floating away, holding a balloonIf you are a fan of mysterious illustrated books, like the Voynich Manuscript or the Rohonc Codex, then Codex Seraphinianus is probably worth a look. Once we’ve had a chance to reattach the case, of course.

It’s Freezer Friday

We are spending today getting some frozen books out of the freezer and into the fume hood so they can over the weekend.

freezer full of books

Our freezer has been working overtime this year with all the pipe leaks and other collections emergencies we have had.

wet books drying in fume hood
Time to make space in the freezer by drying some books in the fume hood.

 

wet books says dry me
Hold on…we’re coming!

What’s in your freezer? Let us know in the comments, or send us a picture on Facebook or Twitter.

What’s In The Lab: A Farewell to a Beloved Colleague

Sam Hammond, University Carillonneur, played the Duke Chapel carillon at the close of each work day.
Sam Hammond, University Carillonneur. Image from Duke Today.

Duke Libraries lost a beloved colleague yesterday. Sam Hammond passed away Thursday at the age of 73. Sam was many things. He worked in the library for 41 years including as a music librarian, and as a librarian in the Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.  Sam was also a campus carillonneur for over 50 years. He started playing the carillon as a first year Duke student in 1964. He retired from that job in 2018.  He also walked to work, and used those walks to pick up litter from the roadside. With every step he made the world just a little bit better.

Sam was a kind soul who always had time to help you when you needed information. When I would visit his office to review something, he would share some of the other wondrous things he was working on. I learned a lot from him. Sam had a sharp wit, and when he told a joke his eyes would shine. He was a true gentleman. But above all, he would routinely tell me how much he appreciated Conservation’s work, and that he was happy I was here at Duke . That always made me feel good, and it was a master class in how to treat your colleagues.

To honor Sam and his contributions to campus, Carillonneur Joey Fala played a variety of Sam’s favorites yesterday at 5pm. You can see the full recital online at Duke Today. Recordings of Sam playing the carillon, and more information on his life can be found online here and here.

As I was contemplating this blog post, I looked for items in the lab that would resonate. Flowers are often given to the family after they lose a loved one. This wonderful book on flowers is on our repair shelf. Tulips have many meanings, love, loyalty, peace and forgiveness. Plus, spring is just around the corner, and after the year we have had, who doesn’t need some cheerful spring blooms?

Garden Flowers in Color, by Daniel J. Foley (1943).

Thank you Sam. You have left your mark on Duke in ways too numerous to count. We will miss you immensely.

I folded a paper crane and left it on the front door of the Chapel before the concert. I hope its spirit found its way to Sam.

Quick Pic: When Dogs Attack

We had two books turned into chew toys come into the lab this week. One is old damage, so I’m not sure we can blame that on the current pandemic.

Book chewed on by a dog
Book turned leather chew toy.

This one came to us from Circulation this week. Fido is either anxious because her person went back to work, or is upset because her person is spending too much time on Zoom and not enough time on belly rubs.

book chewed by dog
Peregrine Pickle finds itself in a jam.

Both are half leather volumes. Maybe the leather just tasted good? We may never know.

My New Favorite Tool

By Rachel Penniman, Conservation Specialist

This tip is shamelessly stolen from a blog post by Satomi Sasaki Verhagen on The Book & Paper Gathering and I cannot thank them enough for writing about this wonderful tool.

It’s a mini, handheld humidifier that creates a very fine mist (click here for a short video) perfect for localized humidification. It looked so useful in their blog post I ordered one right away and had fun playing around with it when it arrived.

Now over a year later I’ve finally had a chance to use it on a treatment project. I blame working from home for not finding a use for it earlier.

We recently got a large vellum binding with many creased and torn fold outs that needed flattening and mending. The binding was stiff and allowed for only a very small opening angle. Mini-humidifier to the rescue. I was able to very lightly humidify just the localized areas of creasing to flatten and realign them before mending. It worked beautifully. Because the little humidifier doesn’t create a very large spray of mist it was easy to direct and keep only in the areas I wanted. Also, it creates such a small amount of moisture that it worked very slowly so it was easy to control how humid each area got.

It wasn’t perfect though. If left running it could build up condensation around the nozzle especially when held at an angle. I found I had to hold a paper towel around the base to prevent any of these drops of condensation from falling on the page I was humidifying. Regularly turning the humidifier off and blotting drops of water off from around the nozzle helped manage condensation build up. The battery didn’t last very long but it is rechargeable and charged very quickly while I was at lunch.

Overall I was so happy with how this tool works and will definitely be using it again.

Is There An Award For Worst Binding Ever?

Normally I don’t like to point fingers, but this item came into the lab and I really cannot NOT comment. I don’t know if this is a standard binding method for oversized music scores, but it certainly is a terrible binding for one. “Troubled Island” by William Grant Still is printed in single sheets on 11×17 inch paper and with 339 pages ends up about two inches thick. But the binding…

large music score in single sheets bound with tape
Does this qualify as a “binding”?

The cataloging record does say “bound with tape,” so warning number one that this is as issued. What the record doesn’t say is that this is bound with strapping tape, the kind with the glass yarn filament embedded in it.

close up of reinforced tape as spine.
So shiny, so strong.

But wait! There’s more! To create folios the publisher/printer placed three pieces of tape between each single sheet. One at the head, tail, and center of the sheet.

three pieces of tape per folio
So. Much. Tape.

This is bound for failure on so many levels. And it does not disappoint.

Loos pages, shifted sections, what a mess
Bound to fail.

I wish I could have a conversation with the publisher about this. Is there a reason this score is bound the way it is? Was the binding meant to be temporary? I really don’t understand any of it, but there must be a reason why they chose to bind this score in this way, right? If anyone knows, please leave the answer in the comments because I am stumped.

End Note 1: “Bound to Fail” would be a great bookbinding contest theme. Or has that been done already?

End Note 2: I guess if a package of American Cheese can be a book, why not this?

 

Graining Our New Litho Stone

When paring leather for book bindings or book repair, it is essential to have a flat, smooth surface on which to work. The parts of the leather that will be turned-in, particularly around the endcaps of the book, must be made very thin and often with a long, gradual bevel. Uneven paring will visibly show after being adhered, so it takes some care and practice to get it right. Paring on the right surface allows you to feel any variation in the leather with your fingertips and take off more material as needed. You also need to work on a material that is hard enough to not be cut up by the paring knife. Many materials (such as glass, marble, or granite) are used for this work surface, but one of the more common is lithographic limestone. Limestone won’t dull a blade as quickly as other stones. It also absorbs water, so I like using it as a work surface for the whole process of covering in leather.

Our new stone. We’ll call the image on the left the “Top” of stone and the image on the right the “Bottom”.

The lab recently acquired this small lithography stone, which was used as a printing plate for what appears to be a worksheet for practicing handwriting. The printing image on the “bottom” of the stone includes examples of short words with ascenders and descenders: land, lakes, plan, glide, plan, fling, often, etc.

The stone was pretty flat, but had a number of scrapes and scratches that could mask problems with paring work. I wanted to remove those before we began using it. Luckily there is a standard method and a lot of resources available to help me do that.

When a stone plate has been printed for the last time, it must be refinished (or “grained”) to remove the old image and prepare the surface for a new drawing. I consulted The Tamarind Book of Lithography to see what we would need to do to prepare the stone. This is a great resource that includes a lot diagrams and step-by-step instructions. Luckily Duke’s Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies had the equipment to grain a stone and they allowed me to bring the stone over to the studio.

The process was fairly simple and kind of fun to do. With the stone sitting on top of the graining sink, I poured a little water over the top of the stone to act as a lubricant and then added some course carborundum grit (silicon carbide) for the abrasive.

A heavy piece of round steel with a handle, called a levigator, is then used to spin over the stone surface to start grinding it down.

I tried taking a video of the process, but it was a little hard for me to hold the camera steady while using the levigator. You can get a much better overhead view in this video from California State University Stanislaus:

The spinning continued until I had worked up a fairly thick stone sludge.

The stone is washed clean and the process is repeated until enough of the surface has been removed. 

Printers will continue graining with increasingly fine grits to get a very fine surface for drawing – but that didn’t seem necessary for our purposes. I believe the outside edges of the stone surface are also filed by the printer to keep them from showing up as an artifact in the print, so the patina and ghost of the original print are still visible around the outside of our stone. I decided to stop at this point because some of the edges were starting to get sharp. We’ve got a sizable chip on one side that needs to be avoided anyway.

The top after graining and drying

I’m pretty pleased with the results. The print image still remains on the bottom of the stone, so we can keep some evidence of what the stone was used for previously. The stone is fairly heavy (40-50 lbs by my guess), so it now lives on a wheeled cart so it can be easily moved around the lab as needed.

Prepping Papyri

Quite a bit has been written on this blog over the years about caring for Duke’s sizable papyri collection, so many of our readers will be familiar. For those who may not know about it, the collection was digitally imaged back in the early 1990s and the images are publicly available for research. The Duke Papyrus Archive is a very helpful and well-used resource, but sometimes we get requests to reimage fragments from the collection. It may be that the resolution of the images in the archive is too low for a researcher’s needs, or there is a request to use multispectral imaging to see if additional information can be made legible.

P.Duk.inv 362: Lease of land, 2nd century B.C. Extracted from mummy cartonnage.

As we have mentioned before, each papyrus fragment is stored between two pieces of glass, which are taped around the edges. This housing solution allows the extremely fragile fragments to be safely and easily handled in the reading room, but it does pose some challenges for imaging. Our digital production staff are able to adjust the lighting environment to reduce reflections from the glass, but the glazing package also needs to be very clean both inside and out. Any dust, stray fibers, or residue are clearly visible in the high resolution images we produce. Prior to reimaging, each fragment is examined to determine if any cleaning or additional intervention is required.

Some of the taping on the glass packages is starting to show some wear and tear. White paper tape was used to seal the glazing for many of the fragments and the adhesive may have become desiccated and failed, or the paper carrier may be splitting. Sharp glass corners or edges may also be untaped and exposed.

Re-imaging is a good opportunity to remove the fragment from its glazing, clean the package, remount the fragment, and reseal the package with higher quality materials. The process is pretty straightforward. To begin, the tape is sliced open on all edges with a scalpel and the top piece of glass is carefully lifted away.

Next the papyrus fragment is removed by very gently sliding it off of the bottom glass sheet onto a piece of clean Bristol board. The surface of the board is very smooth, so papyrus fibers along the edge of the fragments do not catch. The fragment may actually be composed of several loose pieces, so I always do a few little test lifts at the edges of the piece with a microspatula first to get a sense of the fragment’s condition. Luckily, this fragment is all in one piece. I like to note the orientation of the fragment in pencil at the corner of the board, just as a reminder when I go to reassemble the package. The fragment is placed in a temporary enclosure for safety and set aside.

The adhesive of the paper tape is water-soluble and comes off of the glass pretty easily. After mechanically scraping off the tape carrier with a scalpel blade, the glass is placed in small plastic tray filled with filtered water so that any remaining residue will soften and can be scrubbed off. I finish cleaning the glass with a 1:1 ethanol and deionized water solution and buff the surface with a cotton pad. To keep it as clean as possible it’s important to clean any working surfaces beforehand and wear gloves.

Before and After Cleaning

With the glass clean and dry, it’s time to transfer the papyrus fragment back. The papyrus fragment is aligned on the lower glass and secured to it using very small pieces of pre-made remoistenable repair tissue (see Baker 2010 for instructions on making the remoistenable paper). When the mounting strips are dry, the upper sheet of glass is placed on top and the edges are taped with Filmoplast SH linen tape. I like to double-up the taping at the corners of the package to ensure that every edge is completely covered.

In the years before the Rubenstein Library renovation, these glass packages were rehoused in uniform rigid portfolios with cut foam padding. Each portfolio has a picture label and small groups of them are stored together in metal edge boxes for easy retrieval. You can see images and read about that rehousing project here. These portfolios are still functioning very well, so the cleaned and retaped glazing package is placed back in it’s custom portfolio and box before being transferred to the digital production center.

Duke University Libraries Preservation